A beautifully realized tale of civilization versus nature, PRINCESS MONONOKE is a true epic by Japan's master animator Hayao Miyazaki. While protecting his village from a rampaging boar-god, the warrior Ashitaka (Billy Crudup) is cursed with a rapidly spreading scar that threatens to end his life. Seeking a cure and a reason for the animal-god's attack, he journeys into the sacred depths of the Great Forest Spirit's realm. On the edge of this once serene forest, however, the Tatara clan have begun to destroy the surrounding land to produce iron. In retaliation, San (Claire Danes), the adopted daughter of the wolf-god Moro (Gillian Anderson), has begun raiding the Tatara fortress to stop their encroachment. Soon Ashitaka is caught in the middle and must stop the war between the humans and the forest dwellers before they destroy each other.
Miyazaki, who was personally responsible for 80,000 of the film's 144,000 hand drawings, uses the story's lush feudal setting as a character unto itself, filling the screen with vast mountainous landscapes and gorgeous wooded glens that recall his early film, NAUSICAÄ OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND. The film also features battle sequences that are reminiscent of the stunning live action warfare in Akira Kurosawa's RAN. The startlingly fluid movements of these mythological characters are detailed far beyond any other hand-animated production, easily making this one of the most spectacular animated films ever made.
Hayao Miyazaki's epic is a stunning achievement that stands firmly as one of the greatest animated films of all time. PRINCESS MONONOKE tells the story of Ashitaka, a young man who finds himself afflicted with a life-threatening illness, while trying to protect his village from a vicious boar-god. He journeys into a mystical forest to find a cure for his malady, as well as a reason for the boar-god's existence. Once there, he finds himself in the middle of a feud between forest creatures--who want to protect their land--and humans--who want to destroy it. Brilliant animation highlights this action-packed adventure, which is one of the most successful films in the history of Japanese cinema.
Theatrical release in Japan: July 1997. Limited theatrical release in the United States: October 1999. At the time of its initial release, PRINCESS MONONOKE was the highest-grossing domestic film in Japanese history. The budget for PRINCESS MONONOKE was $19 million, more than double what Studio Ghibli had spent on their previous films. The U.S. release featured an English adaptation by popular comic book and fiction writer Neil Gaiman, and the vocal talents of actors such as Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Gillian Anderson, Billy Bob Thornton, Minnie Driver, and Jada Pinkett. "Mononoke" means "spirit of a thing," such as an inanimate object, a dead person, an animal, a human, or a goblin. Totoro, from director Hayao Miyazaki's MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, is also a mononoke. San, the princess mononoke, is supposed to resemble a figure from Jomon-era pottery. Ashitaka is a member of the Emishi tribe, who lived on the northeast section of the main island of Japan. They were defeated by the Yamato dynasty and disappeared from ancient Japanese history. The film is set in the Muromachi period (1392-1573), a time when there was little distinction between peasants and samurai, and when women had much freedom. The setting is crucial because Miyazaki did not want to make a samurai film or a costume drama. Miyazaki started thinking about the film as early as 1980. He originally planned to make a film about a princess who is forced to marry a mononoke. Sketching sessions were held in the Shirakami Mountains and the Yakushima area of Japan. PRINCESS MONONOKE is the first Studio Ghibli film to extensively use computer animation. However, computer graphics still account for only about 10 percent of the visuals; the other 90 percent is traditional hand-drawn animation. Joe Hisaishi's score employs the pentatonic scale, a five-note scale often used in Asian music. Miyazaki wrote the lyrics to the "Mononoke Hime" theme song. "We are not trying to solve global problems with this film. There can be no happy ending to the war between the rampaging forest gods and humanity. But even in the midst of hatred and slaughter, there is still much to live for. Wonderful encounters and beautiful things still exist."--Miyazaki, in a statement quoted in PRINCESS MONONOKE: THE ART AND MAKING OF JAPAN'S MOST POPULAR FILM OF ALL TIME
"...[A] work of extravagant beauty and savage grace..." - 11/11/1999 Rolling Stone, p.145
"...A windswept pinnacle of its art....Anyone with a taste for sheer wonder will be in heaven..." -- Rating: A - 11/26/1999 Entertainment Weekly, p.71
"...It's hard to deny the ambition of the storytelling, the ferocity of the action, or the sheer weirdness..." -- 4 out of 5 stars - Watch More Than Once - 10/01/2000 Premiere, p.90
Ranked #6 in Entertainment Weekly's "BEST VIDEOS OF 2000" - 12/22/2000 Entertainment Weekly, pp.120-3
"...A landmark feat of Japanese animation from the acknowledged master of the genre....This intricate, epic fable is amazing to behold..." - 09/27/1999 New York Times, p.E1
"...Elegant and visually sophisticated..." - 07/01/1999 Box Office, p.77
"...It marries a remarkable sense of visual fantasy, both lyric and violent, with an ecology-themed story and complex characters. It's an adult fairy tale, animation as we've not experienced it before..." - 10/29/1999 Los Angeles Times, p.C1
"...PRINCESS MONONOKE is a great film....The artistry in PRINCESS MONONOKE is masterful..." - 10/29/1999 Chicago Sun-Times, p.31
"...Bursting with imagination..." - 04/01/2001 Total Film, p.112
"[I]t's easy to get swept up in this sprawling man-versus-nature allegory, thanks to meticulous design work, fierce action and indelible creations..." - 06/01/2006 Sight and Sound, p.91